Last update: 11 months ago

From 1979 until 2003 Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party ruled the country. It was a secular, but Sunni-dominated regime. In 2003 Saddam Hussein was overthrown when a US led coalition invaded the country. Hussein was executed in 2006.  In April 2014 parliamentary elections were held in Iraq. Haydar al-Abadi became the new Prime Minister and formed a government in September that year. One of the new government’s main aims is to re-establish security in the country. Since early 2015, the country has been involved in a military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


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Map of Iraq

Short facts

36,423,395 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
Governmental Type:
Parliamentary democracy
Ruling Coalition:
State of Law, National Alliance, Arabiya, Loyalty to Anbar, Iraq Coalition, Mutahidun, Kurdish Coalition, Secular parties, Nationalist Coalition, Minorities
Last Elections:
13 April 2014 (parliamentary elections)
Next Elections:
April 2018 (parliamentary elections)
Sister Parties:
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
Image of Fuad Masum

Fuad Masum


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Image of Haider al-Abadi

Haider al-Abadi

Prime Minister

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Political Situation

Iraq gained independence in 1932, after being a League of Nations mandate under British administration since 1920. The coup d’état in 1958 led to an end of the monarchy and a republic was established. From 1979 to 2003 the country was ruled by President Saddam Hussein. Until 2003 Iraq remained a de facto Arab nationalist and socialist one-party state. In 2003 the government of Saddam Hussein was overthrown by a US led invasion. The United States claimed they invaded the country because of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons, and secondly to introduce democracy. These weapons of destruction were never found however. Saddam Hussein was  captured by American forces in December 2003, and executed by an Iraqi military court in 2006. His party, the Baath Party, was dissolved. Many Baathists, such as former  army and intelligence officers, later joined IS and have reportedly played a significant part in its rise. 

In December 2011 all American forces officially left Iraq. Fourteen years after the ousting of Saddam Hussein the country is plagued by bureaucracy, conflicts and corruption. It is currently ranked 166th out of 177 countries on the 2016 corruption perceptions index of Transparency International.

In 2013 the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), a Sunni Arab rebellious group that was formed following a merger of different Iraqi insurgent groups, started expanding rapidly to parts outside Iraq. The group adopted the name of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2013 and proclaimed itself an Islamic State (IS) in January 2014. The militant group has spread over central and northern Iraq and Syria, leaving a trail of death and destruction. In response to this threat, a US-led coalition of regional and Western powers started a campaign of air strikes in 2014.  ISIS has lost a significant part of the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria. The group’s last major stronghold is the city of Mosul, located in North Iraq. The eastern part of the city has been liberated by Iraqi forces, the battle for the Western part is still ongoing

Iraqi Kurdistan
In 1974, the Kurdistan region in Northern Iraq was granted limited autonomy by the Iraqi government. However, Iraq continuously tried to get control of the area by military interventions up until 1991, after which a no-fly zone was established above the area in 1991. One year later, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was formed by the Kurdistan National Assembly. Iraqi Kurdistan consists of the governorates of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Duhok and Halabja.

A period of fragile peace started after the no-fly zone was introduced. The Kurdish people started to rebuild their society creating a parliamentary democracy. The main political parties – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) worked together during the 1990s. However, power-sharing arrangements between the two failed, erupting into a civil war from 1994 to 1997. The election in 1996 resulted in the creation of two separate Kurdish states: one state based in Sulaymaniyah controlled by the PUK, while the other state based in Erbil and controlled by the KDP. In 2005, Iraq officially recognized the autonomous Kurdistan Region by a referendum. The two administrations were unified into one government and the Kurdish parliament established the Kurdistan Region Presidency (KRP) as an institution. Masoud Barzani was elected as the first President of Iraqi Kurdistan in January 2005 and was re-elected in 2009. 


Electoral system
According to the constitution of 2005 Iraq is a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system whereby the executive power is exercised by the prime minister, president and Council of Ministers. The president is elected by the Council of Representatives. He nominates the prime minister, who has to be approved by the Council of Representatives. The prime minister is the head of government and is the executive authority. The legislative power is vested in the Council of Representatives and the Federation Council. From the 328 seats in the Council of Representatives, 320 members are directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation. The remaining eight seats are reserved for minorities. The Council of Representatives is elected for four years. 

Electoral law
The Kurdistan Parliament has 111 seats and consists of one elected chamber. In 2009 amendments were made to the election law to increase the inclusiveness of all groups. The minimum age of parliamentary candidates was lowered from 30 to 25. The quota of female MPs was increased from 25 to 30 percent of the legislature and seats reserved for minority Christian and Turkmen communities were increased to five seats each. Elections are held every four years. Every citizen of the Kurdistan Region with a minimum age of 18 years and on the electoral registering is eligible to vote in a direct, universal and secret ballot.

Parliamentary elections

Parliamentary elections of 2014
On 30 April 2014 the elections for the Council of Representatives of Iraq took place in which the State of Law Coalition won by obtaining 92 out of 328 seats in the parliament according to the ElectionGuide. Voter turnout was 52 percent. The coalition is headed by the Islamic Dawa Movement, of which its leader is Nouri al-Maliki, and consists of 9 other Shia parties.  

The US embassy in Baghdad said the election was "a testament to the courage and resilience of the Iraqi people, and another milestone in the democratic development of Iraq". However, the chairman of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) had reported some irregularities.

After the new President of Iraq, Fuad Masum, designated Haider al-Abadi to form a new government he succeeded in forming one in two months and became the new Prime Minister. Al-Abadi, a Shi'i, included members of all major groups in the government – Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds – as he aimed to unify the country against the threat of the Islamic State. 

According to the electoral law there is a 25 percent women quota for the parliament, meaning that 83 out of the 328 seats are appointed to female parliament members. According to the IHEC 22 out of 83 female MPs won their seats in 2014 without relying on the quota for women. Yet only 3 out of these 22 women won through independent votes and not through the votes granted to their lists.

Election results:

Political Party Seats
 State of Law coalition  92
 Sadrist Movement  34
 Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq  31
 United for Reform Coalition/ Muttahadun  28
 Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)  25
 Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)  21
 Al Wataniyah  21
 Other Sunni Parties  15
 Al- Aribayah Coalition  10
 Change List (Goran)  9
 Other Shia parties  9
 Fadilah  6
 National Reform Trend  6
 Iraq Coalition  5
 Kurdistan Islamic Union  4
 Other  17
 Total  328

Iraqi Kurdistan parliamentary elections of 2013
On 21 September 2013 parliamentary elections were held in Iraqi Kurdistan with a voter turnout of more than 73 percent. The race seemed to be between the major Kurdish parties KDP and PUK, however, the Change List surprisingly put itself between both of them. The main winner of the elections was the KDP with 38 seats, after which the Change List followed with 24 seats. PUK ended on the third place with 18 seats. PUK and the KDP were running as individual parties for the first time since 1992. In a reaction deputy head of PUK, Barham Salih said "the loss is harsh, but denying the people’s will would be shameful’.

Election results

Political Party Seats
 Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)  38
 Change Movement (Gorran)  24
 Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)  18
 Islamic Union of Kurdistan  10
 Islamic Movement  6
 Communist Party (Freedom List)  1
 Kurdistan Communist Party  1
 Turkoman Development List  2
 Erbil Turkoman List  1
 Turkoman Change and Reform List  1
 Turkoman Movement List  1
 Al- Rafidain List  2
 Chaldean-  Assyrian- Syriac Council  2
 Abna Al- Rafidain List  1
 Barwan Isan Mergoz Batros  1
 Total  111

The elections in Iraqi Kurdistan did not run smoothly. The IHEC decided to postpone declaring the election results because fraud accusations were made by the Movement for Change against the PUK and the KDP. After eight months of negotiating, the KDP, Gorran, the PUK, IUK and IM agreed to form the government.

Political parties

Social Democratic Parties

Logo of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

Party Leader: Mam Jalal Talabani

Number of seats: 21 (Iraqi parliament), 18 (Kurdistan parliament)

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Other Parties

Logo of State of Law Alliance

State of Law Alliance

Party Leader: Nouri al-Maliki

Number of seats: 92

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Al Wataniyah, Al Arabiya & other Sunni Parties

Number of seats: 44 (in total)

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Al-Sadr movement

Party Leader: Muqtada Al-Sadr

Number of seats: 34

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Logo of Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq

Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI )

Party Leader: Sayyid Ammar al-Hakim

Number of seats: 29

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Logo of Kurdistan Democratic Party

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)

Party Leader: Masoud Barzani

Number of seats: 25 (Iraqi parliament), 38 (Kurdistan parliament)

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Mutahidun (The Uniters for Reform Coalition)

Party Leader: Osama Al-Nujaifi

Number of seats: 23

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Logo of Movement for Change (Gorran)

Movement for Change (Gorran)

Party Leader: Nawshirwan Mustafa

Number of seats: 9 (Iraqi parliament), 24 (Kurdistan parliament)

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Logo of Islamic Union of Kurdistan

Islamic Union of Kurdistan

Party Leader: Salaheddine Bahaaeddin

Number of seats: 10 (Kurdistan parliament)

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Kurdistan Islamic Group

Party Leader: Ali Bapir

Number of seats: 6 (Kurdistan parliament)

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Image of Fuad Masum

Fuad Masum


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Image of Haider al-Abadi

Haider al-Abadi

Prime Minister

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Image of Masoud Barzani

Masoud Barzani

President Kurdistan regional government

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Image of Nechirvan Barzani

Nechirvan Barzani

Prime Minister Kurdistan regional government

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U.S. Relations with Iraq
The World Fact Book

Global edge: Iraq Government

Kurdistan Region Presidency

Kurdistan Parliament


Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Election Guide: Iraq
Kurdistan Regional Government
National Democratic Institute: Iraq election watch
State of Law Coalition

Reuters                                                                                                                                                                                              CNBC                                                                                                                                                                                                Euronews                                                                                                                                                                                          Reuters                                                                                                                                                                                              Metro                                                                                                                                                                                                Al Aribiya                                                                                                                                                                                          BBC